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Slain Afghan interpreter’s family approved to come to US, advocates say

Advocates say public pressure helped the family of a slain Afghan interpreter receive approval for humanitarian parole, a status allowing those under immediate threat to seek refuge in the United States. A petition on Change.org calling for help tallied almost 150,000 signatures as of May 18, 2021.

SCREENSHOT/CHANGE.ORG

By J.P. LAWRENCE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 18, 2021

KABUL, Afghanistan — The family of an Afghan man who was killed after aiding U.S. troops has received emergency approval to come to America, lawyers and advocates for the family said.

The man, known by the pseudonym Mohammad, worked for 12 years for the U.S. Embassy and military in Afghanistan and is believed to have been killed by Taliban insurgents while waiting for a U.S. immigration visa.

His widow and six children continued to face threats after his murder and applied for humanitarian parole, a status that allows those under immediate threat to seek refuge in the United States.

Their application was approved last week and advocacy groups are ready to greet them, said Cress Clippard, a Marine veteran and a volunteer for the Houston-based Combined Arms SIVs and Allies.

“I firmly believe that this decision is saving the lives of Mohammad’s wife and children,” Clippard said. “He served alongside us, and his family deserves to be taken care of. Houston is ready and willing to take them in and support them.”

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services declined to comment on the case Monday due to privacy restrictions.

Mohammad waited almost a decade for a Special Immigrant Visa, which allows those facing threats after aiding the U.S. to immigrate with their families, said the family’s lawyer, Julie Kornfeld of the International Refugee Assistance Project.

His SIV application was wrongfully delayed, and prior to his murder in January he faced constant threats on his life from the Taliban for working with the Americans, his son told Stars and Stripes.

Mohammad’s case has received wide attention, with a petition on Change.org calling for his family to receive refuge tallying 150,000 signatures by Tuesday.

“We are very grateful and relieved and are sure that public pressure helped them in a big way,” said Henrike Dessaules, IRAP spokeswoman.

Several lawmakers in Congress advocated for the family, with Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., recounting their story in a hearing last week.

Lawmakers at the hearing criticized the SIV program for bureaucratic inefficiencies and long wait times. They called for an immediate increase in visas for Afghan interpreters and translators who aided U.S. forces, which are fully withdrawing from Afghanistan by Sept. 11.

Mohammad’s family members remain in hiding in Afghanistan as they prepare to come to the U.S., their lawyer Kornfield said.

Advocates have started a fundraiser to help the family with expenses upon arriving in America.

lawrence.jp@stripes.com
Twitter: @jplawrence3